Sunday, December 20, 2015

Retro Review Of X3 Curse of Xanathon By Douglas Niles For Expert Dungeons and Dragons & Your Old School Campaigns

 Today I ran X3 Curse of Xanathon By Douglas Niles  for a group of players and I must apologize because I gutted the entire module and ran it using the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg engine.

"When the grotesque god Cretia casts his ugly shadow over the town, strange things start happening. First, Duke Stephen vanishes. Then bizarre proclamations begin coming out the Ducal Palace - dwarves are outlawed, taxes must be paid in beer, horses must be ridden backwards. Soon the entire town is in an uproar, and a Dwarven army is marching on Rhoona. This is the situation when you and your party of valiant adventurers arrive in the suffering town."
So begins the tag line for the Curse of Xanathon another module that I played through and DMed back in the Eighties
There you find any number of oddities:
  • A ragged beggar who prowls the streets offering cryptic advice;
  • A mysterious black-garbed cleric planning treachery;
  • A trusted soldier plotting his master's overthrow; and
  • A sinister jewel casting its evil emanations over the town.
You and your party are Rhoona's only hope. Only you can unravel the dark mystery that plagues the town and save Rhoona from the Curse of Xanathon.
"Curse of Xanathon is a Dungeons & Dragons adventure module designed by Douglas Niles for use with the D&D Expert Set. It was published by TSR, Inc. (TSR) in 1983 and is designed for 5–8 player characters of level 5–7."
Umm more like higher levels would be challenged as well, this is one of those modules that requires and demands a large group of players to really do the plot of the module justice. In that mix your going to need one dwarf, one  wizard and an elf , two  thieves or more , & a whole lot of fighters with strong arms and solid skill sets. 
I have very strong feelings about X3 and have DMed straight in the past. Today I'm going to gut it and show you how I ran it.

This is a town based adventure with some very high stakes drama happening within the confines of X3. There is a fair bit of detective work in this one and a lot of sword & sorcery action. There's also a ton of plot rail roading in X3. The plot is one of those classic era lines that works on a few levels as both a political thriller and as an investigative adventure as well as a sword and sorcery based adventure.
Wiki has a good break down of the plot line of Curse;" The Duke of Rhoona begins issuing strange proclamations, such as decreeing that all taxes are to be paid in beer, horses are to be ridden backwards, and all dwarves are to be shaved and stretched to make them "presentable to human sensibilities".[2] Duke Stephan is suffering from a curse which was brought upon him by Xanathon, chief cleric of the Ethengar Khanate immigrants living inside Rhoona's walls, and Stephen's own treacherous guard captain, Draco Stormsailer."

X3 Curse of Xanathon really is a urban based  centered adventure with lots of add ons for the city of Rhoona. We get details on details for the Kingdom of Vestland and then some details on  Rockhome the city's Dwarves who play a major part in the plot of X3 all of the way through out the story line. 
And because of the rail roadie priest who shows up throughout the X3 Curse of Xanathon I gutted the material and kept the basic plot and resewn the entire adventure recently. I kept the basic plot and instead used the material as the basis for a sword and sorcery adventure.
I kept Rhoona and made it much more an area of commerce and trade, the rulers were going a little insane because of a clash between the old faith of the city and the gods of some of the refugees in the city. Second thing was to buff out some of the wilderness with more sword and sorcery style encounters. Wolves, serpents, the occasional ghoul, thieves in the night, bandits, berserks, warriors, caravans.  I also kept the basic plot and dropped the rail roadie bits to keep the pace moving along.

"Finally, "Xanathon" offers a first look at three of the immortals of the Known World: Forsetta (lawful), the Spuming Nooga (neutral), and Cretia (chaos)." Right I changed these right over to sword & sorcery gods putting the region into a Russian/Chinese border area some time around the twelve hundred  if your going to be using this adventure for a Lamentations of the Flame Princess style adventure. For Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. The Dwarves become a small rock dwelling race of magickally mutated humanoids who serve as masons, craft people and magicians for the city state. They were the creations of the Elder Things in days long past. For some reason the ruler of Rhoona bears a striking resemblance to Max Von Sydow from 1982's Conan film. Rhoona bares the scars of the Green Death in AS&SH. There were rumors throughout the adventure when I ran it of Elder Thing ruins and works scattered through out the countryside and the clashes with the gods that caused these to sink into the ground. I kept the basic plot but reworked the cults to make them more earthy & sword & sorcery friendly.

I also back connected elements of the adventure with Isle of Dread and framed the whole thing as a sort of Robert Howard clash of the faiths. The adventure is well done but the rail roadie elements pissed off to many players and former DM's for me to run this straight as it was printed. Thea brand new temple in honor of the Ethengarian God Cretia as proof of the evil taint that is infecting the lands in Curse of Xanathon.  All of this can be back connected into your own campaigns if necessary because of the nature of the political machinations in X3. There's a sense of the tense and dangerous in the adventure as if there's death looming around the corner of  it. Through out the adventure I dropped hints about Forgotten Fane of the Coiled Goddess through clues scattered throughout X3. 

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